Franciscan Moments

Our Weekly Devotional from

Saint Miriam!

Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: March 30, 2015

As we approach the coming Easter day, but must first dwell in the journey of Holy Week, shall we love like Francis did? Unconditionally, enthusiastically, with utter abandon toward all those lives around us? Shall we commit to love more deeply and honor that which is most important and life changing?

Let us resolve to make this week holy by claiming Christ’s redemptive grace and by living holy lives. The Word became flesh and redeemed us – even with our imperfections – by His holy life and holy death. This week, especially, let us accept redemption by loving more deeply, living more gratefully, honoring more faithfully, spending time more prayerfully, by being more generous, and just living more thoughtful and holy lives. Let us resolve to make this week more deeply holy by reading and meditating upon God’s Scripture and by gathering for the Masses of Holy Week.

Let us recoil before the atrocities of war, gang crime, domestic violence, and catastrophic illness. Let us sing, “Lord, have mercy,” and “Hosanna” and mean it! Let us break bread together, with our family, our friends, our church communities, and actually enjoy it and not be hurried.

This week, let us relive the holy and redemptive mystery and let us do it in memory of Jesus by acknowledging His real Presence upon our altars and within our lives.

St Francis once said, “Above all the grace and the gifts that Christ gives to his beloved is that of overcoming self.”  Can we overcome our intrinsic need to be selfish by becoming selfless this week?

Shall we love more deeply this week?

Let us resolve to make this week holy by living truly holy lives.



Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: March 23, 2015

Cross 1024 x 768In many Franciscan parishes and monasteries, as well as here at the Saint Miriam, you can see the great Franciscan icon, the Cross of San Damiano. The original version of this crucifix is preserved in Assisi, Italy. Many know the story of how St. Francis heard God speaking to him from this cross, “Go, and rebuild my house.”

The cross itself is a story — the story of the Passion of Jesus, as told in the Gospel of John. Symbols, colors, and especially painted figures around the crucified Jesus help to tell us that story. As an icon, it is a glorified symbol of Jesus’ dying and rising. It is a reminder that the Cross of Christ is indeed the way to glory.

But it’s also true that the cross in Jesus’ time was an instrument of torture and execution. The death of Jesus was one of the most painful ways a person could die. Such a death also makes the cross a reminder of the sufferings and obstacles of human life which are present on the way to glory.

Soon, we come together and walk the way. We will join Jesus in the journey to the cross. Together we will commemorate the holiest days of the Christian year: Holy Week. From the earliest days of Christianity the passion, death, and resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ have been observed as the greatest and most solemn feast of the year. In these last two weeks, the readings and prayers of our liturgy focus us on the Passion of Our Lord. The word “passion”, in the Christian sense, does not mean an intense emotion; rather it refers to the historical events of Jesus’ suffering and death. We remember that Christ became, for our sake, obedient unto death, even the death of the Cross.

This year, as a reminder of our Franciscan ethos, we will use the Cross of San Damiano at the Chapel of Reservation that will include a period for devotion and adoration the night of Holy Thursday after the altar is stripped, and the parish is laid bare, and our Lord is entombed.

Yes, together, we walk the Way of the Cross, and lift high the cross on the coming Good Friday.

May we be bold enough not only to attend, but to discover, in our own personal walk here with Jesus, the way to glory and true life.



Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: March 16, 2015

The Sight of burning votive candles is common in most Catholic Churches. The lighting of candles has been observed since the early the time of the early martyrs. At Saint Miriam, we, too, have a beautiful ‘Burning Bush” Votive Candle Stand where many light candles of hope, prayer, need, but also thanksgiving. The practice of lighting candles in order to obtain some favor probably has its origins in the custom of burning lights at the tombs of the martyrs in the catacombs. The lights burned as a sign of solidarity with Christians still on earth. Because the lights continually burned as a silent vigil, they became known as vigil lights.

Vigil Lights (from the Latin vigilia, which means “waiting” or “watching”) are traditionally accompanied by prayers of attention or waiting. Another common type of candle offering is the votive light. Such an offering is indicative of seeking some favor from the Lord or the saint before which the votive is placed. Lighting a candle is a simply and powerful way of extending one’s prayer and showing solidarity with the person on whose behalf the prayer is offered.

We are always watching for signs and grasping at all kinds of indica­tors to help us decide what to do, what to buy, how to re­spond, or how to get rich quick. Our faces are buried in tablet, television, smart phone, and video screens of all shapes and sizes, looking for that sign that could mean wealth, suc­cess, or some form of victory.

These final days Lent challenge us to look up from our our screens and to pay attention to the signs of God all around us: the community of faith that gathers in our parish weekly without fail, the folks who have decided to put God first in their giving, and in their lives; the unconditional love of our closest family and friends, the unwarranted and unexpected kindness that comes from a stranger, or the goodness we are able to extend to others when we pay more attention to ‘them’, as we place ‘ourselves’ aside….next to that video screen…to heal and to mend.

Go to Mass this week, or stop by your parish at an unexpected hour and take a moment to light a candle and then pause and remember (and truly live) the words of Our Christ: “I am the Light of the World.” In burning one small candle, our prayers rise up to Heaven day and night. Our prayers join the saint’s intercessions because of their friendship with God in Heaven.

In the simple act of lighting a candle, we not only pray, but our prayers become smaller symbols of the One Light of Christ and we receive a sign of faith, hope, and charity for us, and more importantly, for the world for which we pray…

Saints are powerful intercessors. So are we.



Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: March 9, 2015

 

“No Prophet is accepted in his own hometown…”

A gentle reminder from Saint Luke today, huh? How true it is. For those of us who are priests, we feel this each and every time we go back home to the places we ventured and wandered in our youth. We are devoid of title and prestige there because everyone knew us when we were rebellious, young, and thoughtless! They see us as if we have never changed, no matter the passage of time. We are, in essence, frozen in time.

Everyone in the village of Assisi knew Francis. He was the rebellious young son of the wealthy merchant. He was the leader of a band of those who wreaked havoc. He was obviously ‘ill’ or ‘possessed’ or would never have done what he did! His own father was grieved by the very sight of him and even cursed Francis. Yes, those who know us best, especially those in our own hometown, often find it difficult to grow with us in our maturity of faith. Redemption is often as foreign as the lands we came from…

I wonder how many true prophets we dismiss out of hand simply because we know them, or think we do? How many do we turn away from because they are different or outspoken or push us to accept the parts of us we do not like to admit we own? How often do we simply call them crackpots because they make us see the world differently, or place a call to action within our souls?

Lent reminds us that we are all called to be prophets and to listen for them from wherever they might come. Lent reminds us that we should not dismiss simply because someone deals with mental illness, is too young, or suffers a handicap. Lent reminds us that God comes and often uses the least likely among us to usher in a change of heart, a change of season, a change of attitude to bring about the Kingdom of God.

I wonder if meditating upon the life of St. Francis today, and the manner in which those around him so easily dismissed his voice, we might be able to better see, and to listen, as he did? Perhaps Francis will give us the courage to pause long enough to hear the still small of voices of God all around us, even in those we dismiss out of hand?



Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: March 2, 2015

 
There are two things that all humans have viscerally in common, as if part of their DNA: prayer and storytelling.
 
Prayer is the messy, unpredictable, living laboratory of the Christian life. It is sort of give-and-take collaboration with our God whose character is always sure, but certainly whose path is rarely predictable! Prayer is never the abstraction of a lecture, but always the experimentation of a workshop. Not safely watching others dance, but the awkwardness of learning to dance yourself. Prayer is involvement with a living God and our place in the dynamics of God’s kingdom. Prayer is always an ongoing conversation with the inter-personal mystery of the Triune God; the One we worship and adore week in and week out. But, remember that the deeper one moves into prayer, the more challenging it can become.
Storytelling has been a part of human societies for ages and many of the stories from our own culture or faith deal specifically with resilience. Think back to some stories from your childhood, or name a few of your favorite movie titles. Chances are really good that at least one of your all-time best movies or books has to do with someone facing adversity and through resilience not only surviving, but thriving. This is the story of our Christian faith. It is even found in the pages our sacred scriptures, which, too, began in oral form, transmitted from human to human, believer to believer, faith to faith. It is our story, too, as individuals, for we thrive when we pray and tell our stories….
 
How will you spread your faith this week? How will you deepen your prayer life? Perhaps, this week, as part of your Lenten discipline, you might consider telling your own story? Why not share a written prayer to someone, or for the world you see around you? Why not write to tell someone about Saint Miriam and the love and friendship and the warm parish she is to you and others around you? Why not write to invite someone to attend with you a Mass or Stations of the Cross this week?

 

Ray Bradbury, Zen in the Art of Writing, once penned, “And what, you ask, does writing teach us? First and foremost, it reminds us that we are alive and that it is a gift and a privilege, not a right.”  

This Lent, let us pause once again to act on our faith as we remember how we began this holy season….

 
“Remember that thou art dust and unto dust that shalt return”….


Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: February 23, 2015

During these forty-six days (six Sundays, too!) leading up to Easter, we practice abstinence, we repent and discipline our desires, we abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday and all Fridays, as a way to remind ourselves that we are fallible, fragile – broken in so many ways – and in desperate need of the grace of the One we adore. We try pushing away from the table a little hungry, examining our conscience, and making strong and worthy confessions and doing our penance.
 
At the same, we recognize that Lent eventually yields up its deep shadows to the brightness of the Easter sunrise. So we sit, ponder, work, wait, and pray.
 
During this time, we like, Francis may find that our journey brings a seemingly strong increase in temptation. Our temptations are not likely to come from the Devil in the Desert like Jesus in our gospel from The First Sunday of Lent, but rather from basic human urges, emotions, and desires. St. Francis revealed his own struggles and temptations many times in his own journey. It reminds us that saints are not extraordinary people, but rather ordinary people who do extraordinary things through trial, effort, failure, and re-effort.
 
Lent reminds us that we are to repent, but also focus on the good news! If we fail at one, or focus too much on the other, we lose our balance, and surrender our way to that which leads to utter destruction. However, if we stay focused and acknowledge our human frailty and weaknesses, but believe in our strength to overcome them, then we, too, are on our way to sainthood.
 
Let us ask the Father in Heaven to journey with us. Let us make an appointment with our favorite and trusted priest and make a good confession in these coming weeks. It may just yield to happier day, a brighter Easter, and a more radiant life!


Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: February 16, 2015

“Let us begin again, for until now we have done nothing.”

These were the ominous, prophetic, and yet somehow encouraging words spoken by St. Francis at the time of his death around 1226 in Assisi. Francis wanted those who followed him to be encouraged to adhere to the rule of life they had worked so hard to build together. He wanted them to remain without a strong ego in order that they might lead a life of service to others. He also recognizing the dangers of what would happen if the order, and their rule, became too institutionalized.

This is what happens in many parishes and even within the greater Church itself. Rules dominate and old visions became ingrained without merit. Many do not know why they follow, they just do so blindly, and when questioned, they become arrogant or defensive. Sometimes even mean. In other words, they lose the Gospel.

Perhaps that is why Francis is such a popular saint, he remained true to the Gospel, true to the vision, true to the rule, and close to Jesus through it all, even at his own peril. Francis lived out the teachings of Christ and so inspired many who follow in his steps thousands of years later. It was more than just charisma; it was about authenticity and simplicity. Francis was the ultimate, incarnate, symbol of letting go of everything that might distract one from finding God.

One of the commonly heard words this coming Ash Wednesday will be, “Remember that thou art dust, and unto dust that shalt return.” But there is another permitted sentence, it states, “Turn away form sin and be faithful to the Gospel.”

How will you spend your Lent this year? Will you continue to invest in all that will die and turn to dust, or will you commit to build that which lasts into the life yet to come, and follow the Gospel?
 
Francis’ conversion to a life of prayer did not happen overnight. God had waited on Francis for over 20 years. How long will God wait for you?


Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: February 09, 2015

Soon it will be Lent. It almost unimaginable since the holy season of Lent is so much earlier this year. But, as followers of St. Francis, we can rely on his life and inspiration to follow the pattern of the Gospel more closely. It will lead us more deeply into the coming Lenten season and perhaps allow us to let go of the troubles of the world, as we try and find a closer relationship with Christ.

The world is full of trouble, pain, conflict, and war. Just turn on the news today and we may witness a plethora of the world’s troubles and in some very horrific ways. Even our own lives can seem tense and troubled, too, at times. Debts can be high, income low, and relationships strained. Our days run into weeks and the clock often controls them. Few of us find ways to simply stop, get off the proverbial merry-go-round, and find a place of peace and refuge, if only for a few moments to commune and gain strength from God. But, we must, or we shall perish like the wheat that falls to the earth.

It is worth noting that Francis was fully human. He relished his own brokenness and his own humanness. He allowed his life to be a singular focus to God. While Francis lived within a primarily Catholic culture, and most likely could not have imagined our world today: one replete with pluralistic religious belief (and even no belief at all) there were troubles all around him, too. The world was full of poverty and infighting. There were doctrinal disputes within the Church and even the papacy was endangered by claims and counter claims of authority. Too, there were the Crusades, political struggles, and war. Yes, the world was less global and less media-intensive, but it was still very troubled. Yet, still, Francis was able to harness his energy, steer clear of becoming fixated on the troubles, and find rest in the wings of God.

How will you dedicate your Lenten focus to God? Will you promise to attend Mass regularly? Give more of time, talent, and treasure? Will you pray more? Give more of yourself, rather than ‘giving up’ chocolates or some worldly good? How will you focus your life more on that which lasts, rather than that which fades with the passage of time?

“God will cover you with his feathers, and under God’s wings you may trust.” (Psalm 91:4)

Do you really trust God?



Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: Februay 02, 2015

Well, it’s official! Punxsutawney Phil, the world’s most beloved seasonal prognosticator, saw his shadow this morning portending six more weeks of winter. (Amazing that he could see a shadow with such overcast skies, but nonetheless, the prediction is uncovered.) But perhaps the most important piece of information learned today was that this year, the forecast suggests this winter will be remembered for its duration more than its intensity. We have to wonder…what will we be remembered for in terms of our faith and commitment? Our intensity, our duration, or something less flattering?

One day, while praying before a crucifix in the dilapidated chapel of San Damiano, Francis heard a voice speak to him that said, “Francis, repair my church, which has fallen into disrepair, as you can see.” At first Francis was inclined to take this assignment literally, and he began to physically restore the ruined building. Only later did he understand his real mission in a wider, more spiritual sense. His vocation was to recall the church to the radical simplicity of the gospel, to the spirit of poverty, and to the image of Christ in the poor.

Before long a dozen other young men had joined him in this effort. They became the nucleus of his new order, the Friars Minor. Clare of Assisi would soon follow, slipping through the city walls in the middle of the night to join the waiting brothers. The little community continued to grow and still does to this day, despite the ridicule of a world beset on material things and transitory happiness.

Francis’ life took shape around an utterly new agenda, contrary to the values of his family, his friends, and the world around him. Francis encouraged his followers to welcome ridicule and persecution as a means of conforming to the folly of the cross. He taught that unmerited suffering borne patiently for love of Christ was the path to “perfect joy.”

As we inch now ever closer to the holy season of Lent, where does your perfect true joy come from? What in your life needs reevaluated? Do you help build God’s holy church, or are you simply a bystander?



Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: January 26, 2015

St. Francis of Assisi desired to follow Jesus Christ and he wanted to always live according to the Gospel. One of the most profound ways that St. Francis came to know and follow Jesus was through the pages of Sacred Scripture. The writings of St. Francis often quoted scripture and alluded to them with great ease. The words of the Bible were so deeply woven within St. Francis; it was almost as if they became a part of him! He embraced God’s Word and lived by them! (St. Francis even insisted that when the friars saw scraps of paper they should pick them up, just in case the Word of God was written on them!)

The ideals of scripture were expressed through St. Francis’ love of God and his neighbor, especially the poor and marginalized. These ideals are found within Saint Miriam and her willingness to welcome everyone. St. Francis looked at the Bible as a guideline to living life in a way that is morally good in the eyes of God. But he also recognized that knowing and doing were incomplete with the other. Therefore, St. Francis labored for those ideals expressed in the pages of scripture. In other words, he sowed what he read and helped to bring about a better world about through his own poverty, effort, and willingness to love unconditionally, even those the world hated.

As we approach the coming  “month of love”, let us pause to pray as we ask ourselves, do we love deeply enough? If we died today would those people and places that made our lives meaningful and more complete know that we loved them? If someone looked at our lives would they readily see that which we truly loved, or, would we be embarrassed in how we spend our time and money?